Michael Baskin lived in the Caribbean as a young child where his family started a small scuba diving and boutique hotel business in the island of Grenada. He later moved to the island of Maui, Hawaii, where he completed high school at Seabury Hall and learned about Hawaiian culture. He studied architecture and business in college at both the University of California Santa Cruz and Pepperdine University.
Michael always had a passion for interesting design bringing together Asian and Caribbean elements. The design company that he currently owns is focused on the preservation of historic Hawaiian small town buildings on the North Shore of Maui.
Michael Baskin is currently the Owner, Designer, and Manager of several entrepreneurial companies that he founded; a small boutique hotel called The Paia Inn, a restaurant with Japanese sushi and tapas called Vana, and a beachfront weddings and cultural arts events venue called SurfClub. Michael is proud of the fact that his businesses hosted the last World Surf League contest awards ceremony and after party. This was to support the local surfers like Kai Lenny and many other professional surfers who are based out of the North Shore of Maui. Michael has also hosted the Cycle to the Sun event every year, which is a race from the town of Paia to the top of Haleakala crater which rises to a height of 10,000 feet.
Additionally, Michael Baskin is currently the Director of the Paia Community Association, which was formed to help support the town. He also routinely contributes his time to the Paia Youth and Cultural Center, which is a community center where his three children regularly participate in activities.
What inspired you to enter the hospitality business?
The original idea for the company came from my background of Architecture and Entrepreneurial business education. The name for Paia Inn really came from the fact that it was an existing building that dated back to 1927, and when we purchased the building 20 years ago it was a Japanese inn called the Paia Lodge. We are honored to have maintained its original form and use, and preserved and restored the historic building back to its original state by focusing on beautification and style and luxury components while simultaneously bringing it up to current standards.
How do you organize your workday?
My typical day starts with a morning ritual of walking on the beach and practicing mindfulness. I start work early, focusing on landscape architecture and beautification of the properties. I also meet with staff in an effort to focus on continually making the organization and the properties better. We have a mission statement of making every guest feel special while improving the ways we do business.
How do you see ideas through from conception to reality?
I bring ideas to life by observing how our operations are doing and determining if anything needs to be changed. There is a constant effort to make our food better and bring in new culinary aspects. I travel often and stay at specialized boutique hotels to garner ideas. I have found that through traveling and observation I’m able to pull together elements from different locations and integrate them into our own properties. I often hear how these spaces, as well as our own, are reminiscent of other places around the world.
Is there a trend you’re enthusiastic about?
One trend that excites me is bringing together technological elements, like apps and other relevant technology, and integrating it into the booking process of our luxurious locations. People are on their phones a lot, and apps make things easier for them to book with us and to check in. I have found that many people are now making last-minute decisions when it comes to places to stay for business trips and vacations. We are also trying to focus on bringing together many activities like surfing and stand up paddle instruction alongside other on-trend elements to the North Shore.
As an entrepreneur, is there a habit you can cite that’s particularly valuable?
One habit of mine that makes me a productive entrepreneur is being open minded and constantly observing how things can be even better than they currently are. There is an ongoing and never-ending passion to make our properties even more stylistic and high-end. I like bringing music and other aesthetic elements to the forefront to create an overall positive and relaxing vibe.
If you had a time machine and could visit a younger incarnation of yourself, what would you tell him?
If I were to go back and give my younger self any advice, it would be to gather the input of more local peoples before making certain decisions, so that everyone feels they have a say in the attention to detail when choosing to make changes in a small town.
Would you like to share an unpopular opinion that you hold?
Hawaii is the best state to live in of the fifty states, bar none.
Is there one thing you do over and over and would recommend every entrepreneur do to better facilitate success?
As an entrepreneur, one thing that I do over and over and recommend everyone else do is never give up and continue to persevere knowing in your heart that what you are doing is the right thing. I wake up each day with true excitement about the days ahead. I never feel any boredom because I am full of drive and passion about what we’re trying to accomplish.
Can you share a specific strategy that has helped to expand your business?
One strategy that has helped me grow my business is being kind to others and keeping composure during challenging moments. The other thing that I’ve always adhered to is showing my willingness to do whatever it takes to exceed people’s standards. These approaches have really improved business.
What is one great challenge you faced during the course of your career, and how did you overcome it?
One challenge I’ve faced as an entrepreneur is dealing with legal challenges. There has been a small group of people who’ve attempted to slow one of the businesses down, and it’s been a real quest to overcome the resulting legal expenses. There hasn’t been a satisfactory resolution to this problem yet, so I deal with it by constantly endeavoring to better the businesses at all times. I know things will work out in the end, though; I have built up a great deal of tenacity through my experiences.
Is there an industry or sector of the economy that you think is especially fertile ground for new entrepreneurs?
One business idea that I’m willing to give away to the readers is anything that focuses on streamlining operations and making things easier to bring true value to the consumer. Time management and streamlining—that is the wave of the future. The best ideas moving ahead will be rooted in concepts that streamline the process for people to make quick decisions and help them to book their hotels and travel plans within seconds.
What is the best relatively small amount of money that you’ve spent lately?
I recently spent $100 to invest in an app that I am working on. I think that if you can create an app that is easy for others to use, the rewards will be exceptional.
Is there a piece of technology that helps you to be productive? If so, what is it and how do you use it?
The one piece of technology that helps me to be productive is my iPhone. I am very much an Apple person. We incorporate Apple products throughout our hotel and all staff are required to be able to communicate through messaging and iPhoto. We tend to use photography quite a bit to feature and market our various businesses.
Do you have a favorite book?
I read various different books, such as The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, who actually stayed at our hotel. I also recommend books by Tony Robbins. I like to be motivated and focused, and I also like reviewing architectural design books to keep up-to-date on various elements of design and ambiance.
Is there a quote that especially hits home for you?
“Don’t let disappointment defeat you, let it drive you.” — Tony Robbins